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Bayang Barrios sings ‘Igpaw Mindanao’

“Igpaw, Mindanao” performed live by Bayang Barrios at Bamboo Giant, Manila for the campaign #StopLumadKillings supported by ILPS-Philippines.

Music composed by Danny Fabella of Musikang Bayan, arranged by Teddy Katigbak, with additional vocals of Onie Badyong and Empiel Palma, Andrew Barrios on guitar, and Budeths Casinto on percs in the original soundtrack. Video contains images from DavaoToday, Mindanews, RMP-NMR, Tudla Productions, and PinoyWeekly.

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KODAO RADIO: Ang kabataang Lumad at ang kanilang paaralan

Listen to Manobo high school student Yenyela Undayon explain why she chose to study at ALCADEV. Listen to a 15-year old girl tell and sing the story of the Lumad.

This is Tala-Akayan’s October 29, 2015 episode, originally aired over Veritas846.

Manilakbayan 2015: Bringing the Lumad’s voice to the doorsteps of oppressors

Hundreds of Lumad and Moro participants of the ongoing Manilakbayan staged a protest rally at the gates of Camp Aguinaldo, headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They accuse the AFP of being blood-thirsty mercenaries who kill at the bidding of big mining and logging companies that plunder their ancestral domains. The Lumad performed dance rituals to symbolise their struggle against their “oppressors”.

(Video by Pom Cahilog Villanueva for Kodao)

Lumad launch book on mining and plunder in Mindanao

The latest book on large-scale mining plunder in Mindanao, “Undermining Patrimony,” is launched with lumad representatives of Manilakbayan 2015. Sr. Francis Añover, national coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Sr. Stella Matutina of Panalipdan introduced the book. Reviews by Prof. Rogelio Ordoñez and Prof. Roland Simbulan.

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STREETWISE: Manilakbayan 2015’s opening salvo by Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

Streetwise

Lumad extrajudicial killings and forced evacuations due to military and paramilitary forces rampaging across the indigenous people’s ancestral domain in the remaining frontiers of Mindanao have finally made its mark on the national public consciousness.

The arrival of the Manilakbayan 2015, a contingent of more than 700 people who traveled from Mindanao to Manila by land, consisting of lumad from different tribes, peasants, trade unionists and social activists, has served as a dramatic and colorful high point of the campaign to seek  justice for gross human rights violations; to defend lumad schools, communities, land and resources; and to resist corporate plunder and government’s war against the people of Mindanao in the guise of fighting insurgency.
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While the sorry plight of the lumad “bakwit” (a colloquial Filipinized term for evacuees) has been ongoing for far longer, certain developments served to bring it to the fore.  One was the frustrated attempt by North Cotobato representative Nancy Catamco, with the help of hundreds of police, paramilitary groups and other government people, to force about 700 Manobo evacuees who had taken refuge in a church compound in Davao City  to go back to where they came from.  Erstwhile presidentiable, Davao City mayor Duterte, intervened to avert more violence, providing buses for those willing to leave voluntarily but not one availed of his offer.

The other dramatic event was the brutal murder of the executive director of ALCADEV, a lumad school in Surigao del Sur and two lumad leaders and the burning of a lumad cooperative, by paramilitary forces under the wing of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).  This led to another exodus, this time by close to 3000 individuals – men, women and children – to the provincial capital, Tandag City.

The killings and arson were condemned as the handiwork of right-wing paramilitary death squads recruited from among the lumad by the AFP.  The military tried to distance themselves from the killers and turn the tables on the victims by tarring them as supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA).  When this didn’t work, the AFP and Malacanang tried to echo the call for a stop to lumad killings while blurring who are behind such killings and for what reasons or else pointing to the NPA as the culprit.

Now the Manilakbayan is serving as a compelling and hard hitting testimonial not only to the travails of the lumad and other oppressed people in Mindanao but to their heightened social and political awareness; their courage and steadfastness in the defense of their organizations, schools and communities; and to their pride in their culture and traditions harnessing these to assert their rights as a people.

During the five-day caravan through Eastern Visayas, the Bicol region and Southern Tagalog, the Manilakbayan caravan was warmly welcomed.  The “lakbayanis” were provided food, lodging and other wherewithal to ease their stay. They held rallies in major stops to explain the issues and demands they carried. There were cultural exchanges with various groups especially the lumad youth with their counterparts.
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Their journey culminated in their triumphant entry into Metro Manila wherein the Baclaran church gave them a place to rest briefly overnight; students and teachers from St. Scholastica, De La Salle, Philippine Christian College, Philippine Normal College and University of Santo Tomas welcomed and cheered them on the following day; a “salubungan” and solidarity lunch took place with various sectors at the Bonifacio Shrine; the Manilakbayan and their welcomers marched to Mendiola  to bring their protest to the doorstep of the Presidential Palace; followed by the final leg, the caravan to the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines (UP).

As hundreds of thousands of UP student activists have done in decades, the Lumad sit in front of Palma Hall for a protest action.

As hundreds of thousands of UP student activists have done in decades, the Lumad sit in front of Palma Hall for a protest action.

At UP, the long day was capped by a huge, rousing welcome in front of the iconic Oblation statue symbolizing academic freedom and the university’s avowed service to the people, with flags waving and people chanting and cheering.  Manilabayan leaders gave UP Chancellor Michael Tan a red tubao to wear on his head while the latter handed out several “sablay” or the UP sash worn at graduation and other formal events to the leaders.

The UP community laid down a red carpet welcome for the Manilakbayan not in terms of luxurious accommodations (they were assigned a wide, open space near Commonwealth Avenue where camp of make-shift kitchen and dining area, shower rooms and toilets, and sleeping quarters were set up by UP personnel and volunteers) but in terms of a week-long series of events open to the public.

There was a press conference held at the historic stairs fronting the old College of Arts and Sciences or “AS steps” with UP officials formally receiving the Manilakbayan contingent (present en masse in a sea of colorful but mainly red traditional garb).  The lumad performed a ritual to bless their stay and their hosts.  It was a joy to see lumad kids playing basketball with the UP varsity team.  There was a steady stream of visitors to the camp both UP and non-UP denizens to interact with the guests and to take photos to memorialize the occasion.

In the daytime there were conferences, forums and group discussions such as on agribusiness and mining corporations continuing to monopolize land in Mindanao and fast encroaching on lumad ancestral domain as well as on prospects for peace in Muslim Mindanao with the uncertain passage of a highly diluted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).  There were also protests at government offices such as the Commission on Human Rights and the National Commission on Indigenous People seen as veritable accomplices to the impunity with which state forces were attacking the lumad.
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At night there were cultural solidarity sessions in the camp as well as fund raising events such as the one held for lumad schools by musicians and artists that even featured the Filipino choreographer and dance historian Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa who has been awarded for her lifework of documenting and teaching the “pangalay”, a pre-Islamic dance tradition among the peoples of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Despite initial trepidation by some quarters that UP’s hosting of the Manilakbayan might be disruptive of the university’s daily life as an academic institution or worse, be interpreted as aiding and abetting those that the AFP is wont to label as “enemies of the state”, both the hosts and the guests were one in declaring the one week UP stay of the Manilakbayan as a bona fide, if unique, learning experience for all.  It also underscored the fact that in UP, the counterculture of protest is alive and well and that UP’s other moniker as the “University of the People” stands on firm ground.

The Manilakbayan moves to the Liwasang Bonifacio where they will set up camp for the following weeks until the protests for the upcoming APEC Summit.  The “lakbayanis” are well aware that policies of neoliberal globalization including the policy of opening up the economy and national patrimony to unbridled exploitation by multinational corporations are behind the intensification of plunder and war in Mindanao.

It is hoped that the Manilakbayan’s highlighting of the urgent issues and demands of the people of Mindanao, especially the lumad, will lead to the dismantling of paramilitary groups, the demilitarization of lumad areas, justice for victims of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations and the further unmasking of the destructive forces of monopoly capitalist greed and bureaucrat capitalist corruption that are at the root of their exploitation and oppression. #

Published in Business World
2 November 2015

Bonicris Mandagit, a Manobo bead crafter

A photo essay by Raymund B. Villanueva

The Southern Mindanao Region contingent of Manilakbayan 2015 gathered at the covered court of Pook Dagohoy, UP Diliman last weekend.

The Southern Mindanao Region contingent of Manilakbayan 2015 gathered at the covered court of Pook Dagohoy, UP Diliman last weekend.

THEY SIT AROUND in groups in a workshop of sorts on a Sunday afternoon.  After more than a week on the road from Mindanao to Manila and six days in a camp within the University of the Philippines campus, they were spending the weekend on two basketball courts, regaining physical strength sapped by seemingly endless series of activities highlighting their struggle for justice, peace and the right to determine how to live in their ancestral lands. Seven hundred tired bodies either sleeping or doing beadwork.

Pedela Pandagit, 24 years old and Datu Jimbo'y wife, leads her group in creating bead ornaments.

Pedela Mandagit, 24 years old and Datu Jimbo’y wife, leads her group in creating bead ornaments.

“This is how we usually spend our free time back home, when the fields have already been planted and we wait for our crops to be harvested,” Bonicris Mandagit said.  Unlike in Barangay Tibugawan, Valencia, Bukidnon where they are serenaded by chirping wild birds, a cacophony of motor traffic they still have to get used to surround what used to be a silent and near meditative activity.

Bonbon (right), 18 years old and newly married, crafting a bracelet with a group that included her sister-in-law Pedela.

Bonbon (right), 18 years old and newly married, crafting a bracelet with a group that included her sister-in-law Pedela.

Bonbon, Bonicris’ nickname, is creating a bracelet out of the tiniest glass beads.  She has already threaded the yellow and black geometric highlights and is trying to close the loop with a solid band of orange.  She said she learned by observing her parents and picking up the craft when she was 10 years old.  “I do not know how beading became part of our culture.  I just know it is very important to us,” she said.

Bonbon carefully uncurling fine threads salvaged from discarded ropes and rice sacks.

Bonbon carefully uncurling fine threads salvaged from discarded ropes and rice sacks.

The Manobos have names for their most precious bead ornaments.  Big necklaces that adorn Manobo women are called ginibang, beaded waistbands are called bakus, and the practical tikos are those that wrap around their lower legs to prevent varicose veins.  The tangkuro, exclusive to Datus, are headdresses that have designs unique to each wearer.

Aida Anggol, a Manobo from Talaingod, Davao del Norte, wearing a ginibang.

Aida Anggol, a Manobo from Talaingod, Davao del Norte, wearing a ginibang.

Bonbon remembers when she was just allowed to wear two beadwork items. “Manobo maidens are supposed to wear only two bead ornaments.  Only when we are married are we allowed to wear as many to fill our heads, necks, wrists, fingers, dresses and legs,” she explained.  Bonbon wished for the time she finally could wear as many bead ornaments as she wished.

Deep in concentration, another Manobo woman finishes a necklace of white, black and red.

Deep in concentration, another Manobo woman finishes a necklace of white, black and red.

It looked like she would fulfill her wish last February when she was married.  After nine days of ceremonies that involved the exchange of pigs between her family and her husband’s they were then formally considered as husband and wife.  She looked forward to creating beautiful pieces for herself, especially those with lizard designs—her favorite.

Bead-making is not exclusive to Manobo women, as even the menfolk delight in creating ornaments.  On the foreground is a tikos worn by a resting Lumad.

Bead-making is not exclusive to Manobo women, as even the menfolk delight in creating ornaments. On the foreground is a tikos worn by a resting Lumad.

But Philippine Army soldiers belonging to its 68th Infantry Battalion arrived and occupied the Adventist School in their community last April.  The soldiers said they came to flush out the rebel New People’s Army who they say goad the Manobos into rejecting the planned pineapple, sugar cane and banana plantations to replace their farms.  The soldiers told them they will kill them all if they do not leave their community.

Women, men and children take part in bead-making sessions as much as they delight in wearing them.  To the right is a Manobo male wearing cascading bead earrings anchored by wooden pegs.

Women, men and children take part in bead-crafting sessions as much as they delight in wearing them. To the right is a Manobo male wearing cascading bead earrings anchored by wooden pegs.

Bonbon had then been married for just two months.  There was no time for her to create her dream ornaments for herself.

She, her husband, and nearly a thousand others have evacuated to Davao City.  They have been staying at a church compound in the past six months where they frequently receive harassments, even direct attacks from state forces and government officials.

“I actually have more time creating bead craft while in Haran and here at Manilakbayan. But these are for sale and not for me,” Bonbon said.  Lumad participants sell bracelets for 100 and necklaces for 200 pesos each to visitors and supporters who visit them at their evacuation centers and campsites.  “Fifty percent of the proceeds are given back to us while the rest are used to buy things we need like food and medicine,” she said.

A Manobo farmer's thick fingers are deft enough to hold the tiny glass beads and thread them through fine strings.

A Manobo farmer’s thick fingers are deft enough to hold the tiny glass beads and thread them through fine strings.

Bonbon has lost count of how many beaded items she has created and sold in the last nine months they had been at Haran and during the ongoing Manilakbayan.  She says beading has ceased to be just personal and cultural but has become political as well.  “I am happy when I see non-Lumad wearing our beaded creations.  It means they support our struggle for justice, peace and the Lumad’s right to self-determination,” she said.

Bonbon would rather that their evacuations end soon though.  “I want to be a regular wife back in our community, creating beautiful bead craft for myself while waiting for our crops to be harvested,” she said. #

Bonbon finishing an orange bracelet with black and yellow highlights.

Bonbon finishing an orange bracelet with black and yellow highlights.

(Manilakbayan 2015 is now at Liwasang Bonifacio, Manila until November 22.  It is open to visits from civilians who want to know more about the #StopLumadKillings and #SaveOurSchools campaigns.)

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UP opens arms to Lumad Struggle

The Manilakbayan 2015 from Mindanao arrives at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman to press against state terror attacks on Lumad schools, communities and people. UP Chancellor Dr. Michael Tan and CONTEND Chair Prof. Gerry Lanuza receive the Lumads with open arms. Music provided by Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino (Kontra-GaPi) led by Prof. Edru Abraham. The campaign #StopLumadKillings is supported by the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP).

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Support for Manilakbayan 2015

Days before the arrival of Manilakbayan 2015 in Manila, church people express their solidarity and support to stop state terror attacks on Lumad schools, communities and people. Among the speakers are: Sr. Stella Matutina, spokesperson of Panalipdan Mindanao; Fr. Fortunato Estillore of the Diocese of Tandag, Surigao del Sur; Sr. Mary James Mujar, Superior of the Order of St. Benedictine, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur; Rev. Fr. Jerome Secillano, Public Affairs Executive Secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

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STREETWISE: AFP lies won’t bring peace to the lumad by Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

Streetwise

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its most rabid apologists are trying desperately to stem the tide of public outrage here and abroad over the series of killings of unarmed lumad leaders, their supporters and ordinary community members attributed to paramilitary groups created, funded, directed and protected by the AFP.  They are resorting to squid tactics, red-baiting and victim blaming which only further entrap them in their own web of lies.

During the Senate investigation into the Lianga, Surigao del Sur massacre last week, Senator Teofisto Guingona III underscored the fact that more than a month since the incident, the alleged perpetrators roam free.  There are even reports that they continue to terrorize other lumad communities.  As of this writing another lumad leader has been killed in Agusan del Sur.

Testimonies from the provincial governor, religious leaders and representatives of the 3000 lumad who have sought sanctuary in Tandag City, are one in pointing to a paramilitary group, the Magahat-Bagani, composed of AFP recruits from among lumad communities, as the perpetrators.  More telling, they accuse the AFP of coddling the killers and are calling for the dismantling of these groups.

At first, the AFP tried to sell the idea that the New People’s Army (NPA) was responsible for the killings.  It brought several lumad to Manila and presented them in a hastily organized AFP press conference to say that the entire incident was part of a convoluted scheme by the NPA to demonize the military as human rights violators.  The AFP insists that the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood (ALCADEV) is an “NPA school” and the lumad community it serves supports the NPA.  The AFP insinuates this is probably why the Magahat-Bagani, whose members are anti-NPA, attacked them.

The AFP claims the military unit that was within striking distance of the rampaging paramilitary group did not intervene because they were trying to “protect” the people by avoiding civilian casualties who may be caught in the cross fire. The AFP complains that it is now being unfairly accused of being behind the killings simply because the affected lumad and their supporters are actually pro-NPA.  Nonetheless, the AFP’s proffered explanation — that the NPA killed its own supporters to make the AFP look bad – is just too absurd to be believed by anybody with a grain of independence and an ounce of grey matter.

Consequently the AFP tried to distance itself from the Magahat-Bagani with another incredible line, that these armed groups are “independently organized” and are composed of “traditional” lumad warriors defending their territory from the intrusion of the NPA.  The AFP says these are not under its direction and control.  Accordingly, since these groups are fighting against lumad who have joined the NPA or support the NPA, the AFP posits some kind of “tribal war” going on. The recent killings are alleged to be a consequence of this internal conflict among the lumad but the AFP denies it has anything to do with this so-called tribal war.  Indeed, what the AFP tries to cover up are the origins of these paramilitary groups and how they grew and gained the capacity to terrorize entire lumad communities with impunity.

Their rise can be traced to attempts by big business concerns to exploit the untapped mining, logging and agribusiness potential of lumad areas.  The Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997, that was supposed to protect the indigenous people from being displaced from their ancestral domain by facilitating the grant of Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs), paved the way for some lumad leaders to treat the ancestral domain as their private property for disposition as they please.  These lumad leaders were bribed by the corporations to agree to open lumad lands for exploitation.

However other leaders resisted, realizing that the promised “development” would destroy the forests, the rivers, the land and the lumad way of life.  The ensuing conflict turned very violent as those who favored the entry of the corporations were backed by these corporations and were armed by the military.  Those who opposed became the targets of harassment, forced agreement and outright murder.  Some of them took up arms and eventually joined the NPA operating in their areas. The people welcomed the NPA’s presence to defend them from the AFP, the security forces of the corporations and the paramilitary lumad groups that were given arms, funding and protection by the AFP.

At the root of the conflict is the lumad’s defense of their ancestral domain from wanton exploitation.  It is also entwined with their assertion of their right to determine the kind of development that will genuinely uplift their socio-economic situation even as their traditions and culture are respected and nurtured.  It is thus understandable that the ranks of the NPA in Mindanao include lumad. The mountainous areas where the lumad have been forced to retreat by the encroachment of lowlanders are also the areas where the NPA are strongest.

The government says the NPA is already a “spent force”. So how does the NPA survive and – in some areas, according even to the AFP, expand their influence – if they are not being supported voluntarily by the people, like the lumad of Mindanao?  If the NPA has sufficient mass support to be able to sustain what has been dubbed as “the longest running communist insurgency in the world” how can the military defeat it without resorting to a bloody, brutal, no-holds-barred war against these supporters, including the lumad?

Some peace advocates suggest that the solution to the violence is to withdraw the AFP, paramilitary and NPA from the lumad areas and declare these as zones of peace.  At first glance, this sounds logical and fair. But a closer look will show it won’t work because it does not address the real issues and consequently draws away from the real solution. One only has to ask in the first instance — will the mining corporations then be free to operate in these areas and do as they wish or will?  Will they be allowed to have their own security guards? If so, would these be non-lumad but armed? Or lumad but unarmed? Will the lumad benefit from this more than the corporations? And finally, what mechanism, action or process could make the AFP and NPA both agree to withdraw from any area, or even to stop firing their weapons at each other? Certainly, not mere calls, appeals or exhortations.

In the final analysis, the peaceful resolution of armed conflict in lumad and non-lumad areas in Mindanao and the rest of the country can only be brought about by the resumption of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (the umbrella formation for the CPP-NPA and other revolutionary forces waging an armed struggle).

Such peace talks must address the root causes of armed conflict and must proceed on the basis of the previous bilateral agreements, without preconditions.  Meanwhile, mitigation of the most grievous effects of the armed conflict can already be addressed by implementing the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International humanitarian law (CARHRIHL) through the operationalization of the Joint GPH-NDFP Monitoring Committee.  The latter receives and investigates complaints lodged by victims and either Party to the agreement.

Peace advocates of whatever ideological and political persuasion should seize the issue of lumad killings as an opening to even more determinedly push for peace talks to resume and go forward to negotiations over socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and finally, the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

True peace must be based on justice and not be the peace of the graveyard. #

Published in Business World
5 October 2015

Soldiers disrespect Lianga massacre victims

After Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo were killed at Sitio Han-ayan and Kilometer 16 in Surigao del Sur, allegedly by members of the Magahat-Bagani last September 1, ALCADEV teacher Rico Pareja was sent ahead by the community to Poblacion Lianga to report the massacre to the local police. He then proceeded to Diatagon to await the arrival of the other evacuees and the bodies of the three victims.

Watch as he narrates what they experienced from elements of the 36th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army that day.